With winter now well behind us, it’s time for runners and athletes to come out of hibernation and start preparing for spring and summer races. While it may be tempting to try and rapidly increase your miles from the base you maintained during the winter months, it’s important not to push yourself too hard too quickly. That’s how injuries occur.
To avoid injuries, here are seven tips to help start your season right so you can maximize performance and finish well in your races.
- Check your gear: Whether you decided to take the winter off, or kept up a more modest training regimen during the cold weather, there’s a good chance your running apparel could use an update. Most importantly, for runners of course, are your shoes. If they’re not keeping your feet comfortable and dry any longer, it’s time for you to invest in a new pair. Our friends over at Road Runner Sports are experts in finding the best shoe for you. Plus, spring weather can be a bit temperamental, so be sure to stock up on light layers that are easy to peel off mid-run. If you plan to do your running at night, make sure your gear has plenty of reflective features to ward off traffic.
- Start slow: We know how tempting it can be to jump start your training with a few high-intensity hill sprints, but resist the urge. Regardless of where your base mileage is, you do not want to overdo yourself too early and risk an injury that would force you to sit out the race you’re preparing for. Instead, start slow and take a gradual approach, building up miles progressively week after week. Start with a brisk walk for five minutes and then ease your way into a slow jog for the next 10 before you hit your training pace. For the first three weeks, we recommend keeping your runs relatively short, roughly three to four miles at most, while adding 10% more mileage each week. Don’t add your high intensity speed drills until you’ve rebuilt your running base and can comfortably run 10 miles at an easy pace. Your patience will pay off big in the long run.
- Listen to your body: Everyone is different, so the pace and intensity of your training will be specific to your body. Therefore, it is vital that you pay attention to what your body is telling you. Don’t be afraid to take unscheduled days off, even if it means going down in mileage for the week. With warmer weather, it’s also important to pay attention to hydration, as your body will lose more water through sweating than in colder months. For more info on proper hydration, check out our blog post Running on Empty.
- Prepare for new running surfaces: If you were running during the winter, most likely you logged the majority of your miles on a treadmill or an indoor track (or on the no-impact Zero Runner). In both cases, the surface you were running on was likely much more cushioned and comfortable than asphalt or concrete. As you begin to run outdoors again, pay attention to your feet and how they feel impacting the stiffer surface. There’s no need to give up the treadmill completely, so alternate running indoors and outdoors until your body acclimates. Running on trails and grass generally means a softer surface than roads, but uneven terrain can cause stress and strain if you’re not careful.
5 Essential Items for Runners, for some ideas on the best equipment for cross training and hitting peak form.
- Pick a race: Nothing is more motivating than putting a race on your calendar and committing to running in it. Therefore, do some research on local races in your area and find one or two that occur early in the season. The idea with these races is not to win, but to give you and your body a trial run as you get back into peak conditioning. By committing to runs earlier in the season, you will help prepare yourself mentally and physically for the races you’ll be taking more seriously later on.
- Find a buddy: Training in isolation is perfectly acceptable, but having a workout buddy can do wonders for your progress. Not only can a friend help you when it comes to motivation, but keeping in touch with a workout buddy is important for safety too. And if you tend to run alone, it’s always a good idea to let someone know where you’re running and when you expect to get back.